Fighting soreness from the previous day’s brutal hike with my father, I reluctantly rolled out of my cot and shut off the alarm. It was 3:00 A.M. and we had a few hours of hiking to get to our desired hunting location. After a protein bar and a bottle of water for breakfast, my father and I were heading up the mountain with flashlights in hand. After an hour and a half of hiking we could hear the faint sounds of what sounded like 2 different bulls calling back and forth. This is music to every hunter’s ears and has a way of putting a spring in your step. We determined the location of the bulls to on the opposite side of the creek drainage approximately 500 feet in elevation above us and probably a mile away so we continued up the mountain with hopes that they would continue to serenade us.
After 20 minutes, the bugling stopped so we decided to continue on with the days plan and come through the area where the bulls were by mid afternoon. There was a large drainage to the west of us that we intended to throw a few bugles in to see what it held. By 10:00 we were staring down into the drainage. We sat down to eat a snack and after many failed attempts to get a response we packed up our gear and continued toward where the bulls were that morning.
As we rounded a ridge into the drainage where the elk were originally we again heard the distant echoes of bulls bugling. The deep throated growls made us even more excited as we knew these were probably both mature bulls. This time we were above the elk and had the wind in our favor. We headed straight for them. There was not a single minute that went by when one of these bulls was not bugling. This made it extremely easy to keep them located. We closed the distance to less than 100 yards and could hear cows all around us. We were now level with the better sounding bull and the other bull was no more than 200 yards up the hill. It was extremely brushy and we could not see over 40 yards. My father worked his way toward the better sounding bull with most of the cows while I circled above to see if I could get a look at the second bull. I climbed the hill as fast as I could to close the distance on the upper bull knowing that any second I would be hearing the bark of my father’s rifle. As I came up on a bench where I knew the bull was located I could feel the wind shift and blow right at the back of my neck. The gig was up for me. The bull I was after left town and the next time he bugled he was in the next county.
Still waiting for a shot from my father I circled around above the better sounding bull that was still bugling. I was probably 300 yards above the bull avoiding any circumstance that may mess up his opportunity. As I rounded a ridge top where I could see a little better I heard the elk bust out from down the hill and they were all heading my way. My dad had just jumped the heard. The bull continued to bugle as he closed the distance. 8 cows appeared but no bull. They passed by me at 25 yards and had no idea I was there. The bull cut loose with one more bugle and it was obvious he was not on the same trail as the first group of cows. He cut loose on more time as a cow appeared approximately 75 yards in front of me and he was hot on her tail. I caught a glimpse of the top of the bulls rack and determined him to be a definite shooter. He was moving from my right to left and I had one small hole for a shooting lane. I settled in on that spot and calmed my breathing as the cow came through. As soon as the bull stepped into view I settled. With the bark of the 300 UM I saw the bull turn and run straight away and then all fell silent. I hurried to the see if I could cut the bulls tracks. When I cut the bulls tracks I instantly noticed quite a bit of blood. After 20 yards of trailing I found the bull expired and wrapped around a tree. It was a nice mature 6×6 bull. Within minutes my father caught up to me and we did some celebrating while reliving the moment.
What a sweet feeling to put in so much effort and to have it all come together with a nice mature elk like this. There are no horse trails in this part of the country. Just miles of ridge tops, brushy hillsides and creek bottoms full of blowdown. And that is the way I like it. After two days of packing we had the boned out animal out of the hills. This was somewhat bittersweet for me at that moment though. I had originally set my father up on this bull and was wishing he would have been the one putting his tag on this animal. It is funny how tables turn, as a father you would rather see your kid do the shooting and there becomes a point in your life when as a son you want your father to have the success. We did this together so I will never call it my elk, it was our elk. And little did I know that two days later We would be successful again.
The day after packing my bull out it was my fathers’ turn. Again, with flashlights in hand we were headed up the mountain. This time in a little easier spot, because we were tired. This would be the 5th straight day of hiking some rugged country and two to the days we were weighted down with elk meat. Still it was approximately three and a half miles to where we needed to be. Once we approached the spot we wanted to be we slowed down a bit and took our time to quietly move through some beautiful timber benches. I let out a bugle just to see if I could get a response. To our surprise we got a “taker”. He sounded as though he was across the canyon and so off we went. An hour later we approached the area where we both thought the bugle came from. We slowed down and I began calling to see if we could confirm the bulls’ location. No Answer, which is typical for this time of year. It was October 17th and by this time the bulls usually are done rutting, but I have had some phenomenal days chasing rutting bulls in mid to late October. So the moral of this story is you never know.
After many failed attempts to get a response we scoured the area hoping to see the bull. We knew he was there somewhere. I knew of a small rocky point overlooking the rest of the basin and told dad we should walk the ¼ mile down there and give it one more shot. I stepped out on the point, gave one cow call and he answered just like that. He was on the opposite side of the canyon where we had just come from. The chase was on again and 45 minutes later put us back on the other side of the canyon cruising through some timber benches trying to get a response. Nothing, nothing, and then just like we stepped into his domain boom he answered no more than 150 yards away. The benches were full of huge old growth cedars and visibility was good out to 100 yards. We now had him hooked and he was cutting off my every call. We just sat down on the edge of the bench and waited for him to come. Within minutes he was in sight and I was staring through my 10×50 Binos trying to see what caliber he was. My father kept asking what he was. He was a nice heavy antlered 6×6 I told him. He is a definite shooter. This bull was on a string and was not at full alert; he had his head down and was on his way. I kept telling dad to be patient, because this bull will walk right up to us. Well, he made it to 30 yards anyway and he was going to walk up into our laps but dad couldn’t take it anymore and dropped him in his tracks. What an awesome hunt. I wish I had a video camera. He was a spectacular bull and my father’s largest bull ever, a 320 class 6 point. This was the best two consecutive days of hunting I have ever had. I would not trade these memories for anything in the world.